Shelley Carter enters the world of roller derby and discovers a local club competing on a world stage with skaters playing under such fearsome aliases as Bunny Massacre
We’re not sure what to think of the Government’s This Girl Can campaign aimed at inspiring females to get into sport. Patronising or effective? The jury’s out. We caught up with the genuinely inspiring Central City Rollergirls who despite being self-funded and lacking a purpose-built venue in Brum, are rising through the ranks and competing on the world roller derby stage. In their striking black and pink kit which includes elbow and knee protection, wrist guard, bum padding and of course a helmet, the team looks pretty formidable. The sport is full contact, hence the protection, and the speed and athleticism required to be successful are extraordinary. CCR has members aged from 21 to 40 from a wide range of professions including doctors, teachers and researchers with varying degrees of sporting prowess. From rookies with limited skating experience to A-team stars travelling across Europe, the club is welcoming.
Sponsored by Skate Hut, CCR has two travelling teams (A & B) and three intraleague teams named Bad Apples, Disco Beaters and Queens of Steel. Skaters in the travelling A and B teams have fun alias’s including Boots Manuva, Tinchy Slider, Bunny Massacre and Woo Ha. New skater programmes are important too where talent is nurtured and where injured competitors get back to full fitness. Launched in 2007, the CCR are members of governing body World Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The top of the league tables are dominated by US teams currently where the sport has spread like wildfire since its inception, but the European teams are getting more competitive all the time. The Central City Roller girls are ranked eighth in the UK and sixteenth in Europe out of 371 teams. Relying on monthly membership fees and fund-raising initiatives such as cake sales, the skaters are keen to get ’bums on seats’ and boost the sport’s popularity. Rookie Rachel Abbott said: “It’s fast and furious – great fun to watch.” You can say that again! You need your wits about you to watch roller derby let alone to play. The rules state that any part of the body between shoulder and mid-thigh is a legal target zone and any part of the body between shoulder and mid-thigh excluding hands, elbows and forearms is legal to hit with. Hits often result in skaters flying off the track and into the crowd!
Don’t be put off by the tough side of the sport though. Rachel assured me that you choose at what level to be involved and it’s not necessary to dive into a competitive role. She said: “Having hated PE at school and not being one for pounding a treadmill, this is brilliant for me. The first thing you learn is how to fall. It’s also a sport that isn’t limited to a particular body shape. There are small, speedy skaters teamed with more athletic powerfully built players. There’s no stereotype.” I was struck by the camaraderie at the club. The girls compete hard, but they play hard too which bonds the teams and skaters at all levels. The skaters are chuffed with their climb through the ranks and aim to continue on this course for 2015 chasing down rivals London Roller Girls and ultimately World Champions Gotham Girls. Olympic ambitions for the sport are very real too, so watch this space for 2020.
FEARSOME TEAM ALIAS’
- Agent Dana Scurry
- Boots Manuva
- Scarlet Macabre
- Bunny Massacre
- Katie Clysmic
- Rubix Crude
ROLLER DERBY RULES
The game is played by two teams of five skating in the same direction around a track. Game play consists of a series of short matchups known as jams in which both teams designate a scoring player – the jammer who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to hinder the opposing jammer while assisting their own jammer playing offense and defense simultaneously.